Thursday, January 27, 2011

The strange disappointment of restaurants

I went today to a well-regarded (and notable) restaurant in Mayfair where a charming, highly intelligent and interesting asset manager gave me lunch (thank you) as we talked renewable energy and our own project in South Africa (as well why China may go 'phut' - which is a highly technical geo-political term)!

The ambiance of the restaurant was exceptional (with very colourful David Hockneys decorating the walls) and the staff utterly charming and professional.

But the food...

There was absolutely nothing wrong with it and yet nothing about it (apart from the quality of the ingredients) stood out (except the coffee which was smooth, silky and positively seductive).

I mean I know several friends whose cooking meets these standards (even my own occasionally meets these standards) and though none of us, I expect, could feed more than a reasonably sized dinner party comfortably (though I did once cook vegetarian lasagna for fifty practitioners of Tai Chi), we can 'do it'!

And eating at home, in the home, yours or others, has a relaxed quality that is rarely achieved in restaurants so apart from convenience, the occasion of change, and a rest from culinary labour, why do we do it? Spending not inconsiderable sums 'dining out'?

There is, of course, the power of variety - at home you do (I do) tend to repeat yourself and the hoped for expectation of something out of the ordinary (that in my opinion has no real connection with 'money spent').

But it did strike me today that more often than not hopes are disappointed yet hope springs eternal!

There is, of course, the memory of when something does happen that arrests all your attending taste buds and makes them dance (and how that is so often a subtle combination of food, place and people). My first taste of lobster in Indonesia on my first ever 'development related' trip, a late dinner in a summer square in Copenhagen with the beloved; and, simple grilled fish and a beer, the lone diner at a restaurant in (Turkish) Cyprus table pitched by a crystalline sea, still and welcoming.

The last occasion was at a restaurant in Sansepolcro: a Sunday lunchtime, wine sold by how much of the bottle you drank, and the rabbit pasta that melted in the mouth!

The best path is possibly to travel hopefully, without expectation!

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